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Pope Francis, in new interview, denies he is Marxist, pans idea of women cardinals

December 16, 2013

In a wide-ranging interview with Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, Pope Francis reflected on Christmas, spoke about the suffering of children and the persecution of Christians, and addressed questions on women cardinals and Communion for those who have remarried outside the Church.

The interview, conducted on December 10, was published on December 15.

In response to Tornielli’s question, “You have met with seriously ill children on more than one occasion. What do you have to say about this innocent suffering?”, Pope Francis said:

One man who has been a life mentor for me is Dostoyevsky, and his explicit and implicit question “Why do children suffer?” has always gone round in my heart. There is no explanation. This image comes to mind: at a particular point of his or her life, a child “wakes up,” doesn’t understand much and feels threatened, he or she starts asking their mum or dad questions. This is the “why” age. But when the child asks a question, he or she doesn’t wait to hear the full answer, they immediately start bombarding you with more “whys.” What they are really looking for, more than an explanation, is a reassuring look on their parent’s face. When I come across a suffering child, the only prayer that comes to mind is the “why” prayer. Why Lord? He doesn’t explain anything to me. But I can feel Him looking at me. So I can say: You know why, I don’t and You won’t tell me, but You’re looking at me and I trust You, Lord, I trust Your gaze.

Asked, “Some of the passages in [the apostolic exhortation] Evangelii Gaudium attracted the criticism of ultraconservatives in the USA. As a Pope, what does it feel like to be called a ‘Marxist’?”, Pope Francis replied, “The Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”

He added:

There is nothing in the exhortation that cannot be found in the social doctrine of the Church. I wasn’t speaking from a technical point of view, what I was trying to do was to give a picture of what is going on. The only specific quote I used was the one regarding the “trickle-down theories” which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and social inclusiveness in the world. The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefiting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger; nothing ever comes out for the poor. This was the only reference to a specific theory. I was not, I repeat, speaking from a technical point of view but according to the Church’s social doctrine. This does not mean being a Marxist.

“Yes, for me ecumenism is a priority,” the Pope said in response to a question on ecumenism. “Today there is an ecumenism of blood. In some countries they kill Christians for wearing a cross or having a Bible and before they kill them they do not ask them whether they are Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox. Their blood is mixed. To those who kill, we are Christians. We are united in blood, even though we have not yet managed to take necessary steps towards unity between us, and perhaps the time has not yet come. Unity is a gift that we need to ask for.”

Pope Francis also addressed questions on Holy Communion for those who have remarried outside the Church. He said that in his apostolic exhortation, “I spoke about baptism and Communion as spiritual food that helps one to go on; it is to be considered a remedy not a prize. Some immediately thought about the sacraments for remarried divorcees, but I did not refer to any specific cases; I simply wanted to point out a principle. We must try to facilitate people’s faith, rather than control it. Last year in Argentina I condemned the attitude of some priests who did not baptize the children of unmarried mothers. This is a sick mentality.”

The exclusion of the remarried from Holy Communion, Pope Francis added, is not a penalty imposed by the Church as a matter of eccesial discipline.

“The exclusion of divorced people who contract a second marriage from Communion is not a sanction,” he said. “It is important to remember this. But I didn’t talk about this in the exhortation.”

Asked “whether the Church will have women cardinals in the future,” the Pope replied, “I don’t know where this idea sprang from. Women in the Church must be valued, not ‘clericalized.’ Whoever thinks of women as cardinals suffers a bit from clericalism.”


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  • Posted by: unum - Dec. 17, 2013 6:14 AM ET USA

    Conservatives, and I am one, have gotten a lot of PR by criticizing Pope Francis' comment on "trickle down economics", but none of them used the word "justice" anywhere in their criticism. So, the Pope's charge that economic systems do not automatically help the poor goes unanswered. As long as our political system is driven by the almighty dollar, instead of by justice, the poor will suffer. Just ask the concerned parents of any child in an inner city school!

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Dec. 16, 2013 7:23 PM ET USA

    The trickle down U.S.A. was not that the poor would disappear but would provide more opportunity for the poor to escape poverty by a plethora of job opportunities. Regulated capitalism is part of what "Centesimus Anno" calls a business economy moderately regulated. A future interview might ask the Pope what about job-killing statist economies which kill wealth creation/jobs and seem content with perpetual dependency of the poor on government to keep corrupt pols in power by keeping the poor poor

  • Posted by: koinonia - Dec. 16, 2013 5:29 PM ET USA

    "We are united in blood, even though we have not yet managed to take necessary steps towards unity between us, and perhaps the time has not yet come." Again, there is some degree of ambiguity. What does "we" mean? What are these "necessary steps"? It appears there is already in the Holy Father's mind a recipe of sorts. The traditional Catholic concept- while allowing for charitable discussion in attempting to lead others in charity to Truth- identifies the Church as the vehicle of salvation.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 16, 2013 5:10 PM ET USA

    The exclusion of divorced Catholics who have remarried from Holy Communion is not a sanction, but will he tell us what it is? As in the avoidance of sacrilege? Speaking of suffering children, will he speak of those millions of children suffering from the breakup of their parents' marriages? Fr. Eugene Forbes wrote in his doctoral dissertation The Canonical Separation of Consorts that if hope of reconciliation is forever taken away from the guilty party, the innocent party acts unjustly. . .

  • Posted by: jacquebquique5708 - Dec. 16, 2013 11:15 AM ET USA

    As Shakespeare stated, "Methinks thou dost protest too much". So, every conservative in the U.S. Church is now an "ultra" conservative.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Dec. 16, 2013 8:26 AM ET USA

    I urge everyone to use your links to read the entire interview, the best Francis has given thus far; here he corrects the partisan analyses from both right and left around the globe. But what strikes me most -- and I don't mean to be irreverent at all with this comment -- is that this is just one nice guy, someone you'd love to have in your neighborhood or, even better, in your family. He at all times exhibits an immense kindness and wisdom that are great gifts from God to the Church.